What Does Carte Blanche Mean?

Carte Blanche Meaning

Definition: Freedom to do whatever one wishes.

Origin of Carte Blanche

Carte blanche comes from French, and it literally means blank paper. This expression started to become popular in the 1700s.

Many people point to King Charles II as the originator of this idiom. Some say he gave those working for him a blank paper with only his signature on it.

The idea was that the people with this sheet could write whatever terms they wanted on it. He wanted them to complete a task, but he was giving them freedom to do it however they deemed appropriate.

Examples of Carte Blanche

Definition of carte blanche definition 2In this dialogue, two coworkers are talking about how to finish a complicated project for their boss.

Deanna: There’s no way we’ll finish this in time.

Emily: I know. Actually, we could give her the end product pretty quickly, but she attached all of these rules that we are supposed to follow.

Deanna: I agree. If we could ignore the method she wants to follow and just do it our way, we could finish in a couple of days.

Emily: It’s too bad she would never give us carte blanche like that.

Deanna: Yeah. That is too bad.

In the second example, two athletes are discussing a new game they are inventing.

Billy: So you are saying the only rule is to get the ball to the target?

Angie: Yep! There are no other rules.

Billy: I don’t see how this game could possibly work.

Angie: Think of it this way. All the players have carte blanche to do whatever they think will help them get the ball to the target.

Billy: So punching is allowed?

Angie: Anything.

More Examples

Define carte blancheThe first excerpt is about police officers who do not often have to pay for damages when they commit wrongdoing.

  • The fact that officers do, in some cases, have to pay shows that they are not given carte blanche, according to the city attorney Thomas Platt. –Chicago Tribune

The second excerpt is about giving monopolies permission to do whatever they want.

  • In practice, Gorsuch’s opinion gives monopolists virtual carte blanche to perpetuate their dominance through unfair means, regardless of the consequences for consumers, competitors and citizens. –Washington Post

Summary

Carte blanche is another way to say that a person has permission to do things in whatever manner he or she chooses.

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